Everyone An Artist For Holden St. Project
Preparations for the city's annual Downtown Celebration began this afternoon, despited the continued construction at each end of Main Street. We're particularly eager to see what happens on Holden Street, where Sidewalk Sam was overseeing the layout of grid lines on the pavement.
The Boston icon is leading a group of volunteers — pretty much anyone who stops by to paint — to recreate a colorful Matisse painting that he says symbolizes the life and light of the Hoosic River that flows through the city.
Sidewalk Sam, center, speaks with Glenn Maloney and Public Safety Commissioner E. John Morocco.
The blue river "runs through a landscape and full of life and organisms that are full of the bounty of life, bursting out in color and variety on the ground," said Sam. "We're going to have hundreds of people creating this symbol of life and succulence."
The project, known as Holden StArt, is preparation for a much bigger project planned next year.
Also on tap will be entertainment, food and sales. A dunk tank will be set up and we hear some city councilors will be in the wet seat.
The streets shut down at around 4:30 p.m.; Holden has been partially closed since noontime.
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North Adams Downtown Celebration Wednesday
Fun at last year's Downtown Celebration.
Anyone driving down Main Street knows when the city's annual neighborhood block party happens this year: it's prominently displayed on the Mohawk marquee. But if you haven't ventured downtown (and why not?), the date's Wednesday, Aug. 25.
Main, Holden, Eagle and upper Ashland streets will be shut down from 5:30 to 9 on Wednesday evening so more than 45 vendors, merchants and organizations (nearly half of which are restaurants or food servers) can set up shop along the city's main drags.
Entertainment will be provided throughout the evening on Eagle Street and different locations along Main Street. Visit iBerkshires at 106 Main St. for free popcorn.
North Adams historian Paul W. Marino will lead a historical walk of Main Street at 5. Those interested should meet at the foundry works marker across the street from the Office of Tourism and above Subway Restaurant. At the Berkshire Plaza, the Drury High School band, directed by Christopher Caproni, will perform beginning at 6. At 7, the popular Berkshire County Line Dancers will take the stage in front of the plaza.
In front of Greylock Federal Credit Union at 66 Main St., Karen's School of Dance will perform at 6 followed by a show presented by the Berkshire Dance Theater at 6:15. Next to TD Bank and iBerkshires, Otha Day will perform with approximately 30 drummers at 7. Also at 7, Traci Kittler and Champagne Jam, sponsored by the North Adams Transcript, will play at 85 Main St. Miss Guided will also play at 7 at the corner of Holden and Main streets.
The duo Whirlwind will play near 15 Eagle St., beginning at 6. The popular Loose Change, sponsored by Adams Cooperative Bank, will perform in front of 31 Eagle St. beginning at 7.
One of the more interesting attractions of the night will be the Holden Street Art, or "Holden StArt." Volunteers led by Boston sidewalk artist Sidewalk Sam will use 1,000 square feet of pavement as a canvas for a chalk painting. The event is a preliminary effort to a larger public art project being developed by Art About Town for the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art's excess parking lot behind the Big Y.
To volunteer or for any other questions about the installation, call 413-664-0197.
The public is also invited to tour DownStreet Art galleries, which will be gearing up for the Aug. 26 "Last Thursday" gallery openings. Other evening attractions include a first-ever Downtown Celebration dunk tank, provided by Drury band boosters, at 48 Main St. near American Legion Drive and displays and sales from downtown merchants.
The celebration was originated in 1996 as a way to celebrate downtown beautification efforts and became an annual event. Rain date for the celebration is the next night, Thursday, Aug. 26. For more information on the celebration or the Holden Street Art project, contact the Office of Tourism at 413-664-6180 or email@example.com.
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North Adams 'Action Park' Seeks Pepsi Boost
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — A dedicated group of youth and adults are hoping to "refresh" the dream of a skatepark in the city with the help of PepsiCo.
Members of UNITY (United, Neighboring, Interdependent, Trusted Youth) and its umbrella organization, Northern Berkshire Community Coalition, have been working on a plan for an action sports or skate park for a number of months and have partnered with the city and Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art to develop one.
The group is hoping that the community will not only support a park but help fund it by voting in Pepsi's "Refresh Project." The soft drink company is offering up to $250,000 in grants each month for worthwhile community projects supporting health, neighborhoods, the arts, eduction, food and shelter and the planet. The projects have to be "beneficial, achievable, constructive, and 'shovel-ready' (meaning it can be finished within 12 months of funding)," according to the site.
The company has been accepting 1,000 projects a month and doling out grants since February. Award winners are selected based on their leaderboard positions — in other words, the projects that are boosted to the top by voters. The two top proposals receiving the most votes online by the end of the month each receive a $250,000 grant; other grants from $5,000 to $50,000 will go to the top 10.
Emily Baker-White, a Mount Greylock Regional High School graduate who's working with UNITY as summer intern from Oberlin College, said the group had gotten the project accepted for voting in September.
Baker-White doesn't know how many votes are needed as Pepsi won't release the information on the number of votes past winners received. "Our community may be small but we are a close community, and it is easier to bring people together and spread the word. In large communities the message might get lost," she said. "I really think we have a real chance to win this, so vote every day in September."
So far, the only Massachusetts project we could find on the site that was funded was $5,000 to Greg Johnson for biking 192 miles for cancer research for Dana-Farber Cancer Institute back in May. Johnson's proejct was in the top 10 for his category (health) and amount. The town of Greenfield, Ohio won $25,000 for its own skate park in July.
There was lots of energy and excitement at the volunteer meeting last Tuesday to plan a get-out-the-vote campaign for this contest, with about 30 youth and adults gathered at the NBCC offices downtown. Many of the youth were BMX bikers and if the park is set up well, bikers and skateboarders will be able to share the park, making it more proper to call it an "action sports park."
The brainstorming session brought out ideas and willingness to put out fliers and information through every means of communication the group could come up with. Expect to see a catchy message to vote all over the city.
The meeting was organized by UNITY teens from the leadership program with support from Baker-White and Kate Merrigan, UNITY program coordinator. UNITY is NBCC's youth development program and the Youth Leadership Program is a leadership training and community service-learning program that meets weekly during the school year to encourage youth expression and involvement in their communities.
The planning group will meet again on Monday, Aug. 23, at 7 p.m. in the NBCC offices on the second floor of 61 Main St. In an e-mail reminder about the meeting, Baker-White said, we hope to see everyone back tonight for our second meeting — voting looms ever closer, and we'll need every volunteer and every idea we can get. Thanks so much; I'm pumped to see you all there!"
Voting on the Pepsi Refresh Project website will begin Sept. 1 and last through Sept. 30. If you have a Facebook account, you can log on directly, otherwise you will need to go to www.refresheverything.com and create an account with Pepsi to vote. Voters must be age 13 or older and may vote once each day online and make a second vote by texting a five-digit number, which will be released in time for the September voting period.
If you can't attend the meeting, but have ideas or would just like to help, contact Baker-White at firstname.lastname@example.org or Merrigan at email@example.com or by calling the coalition office at 413-663-7588. Keep updated by joining the group's Facebook page.
Once the voting begins, iBerkshires will have links to the project on our home and Facebook pages.
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Solid Sound Festival Comes to an End
Exceptional live music was around every corner Sunday on the third and final day of the Solid Sound Festival at Mass MoCA. The Nels Kline Singers wowed fans with a thrashing set; Avi Buffalo left one satisfied concert-goer exiting the Hunter Center saying, "That's the best guitar playing I've seen this weekend."; and, of course, Jeff Tweedy and Wilco dropped the curtain.
Tweedy played a solo acoustic set at Joe's Field, then invited guest performers to join the stage, including Sir Richard Bishop, The Books' Nick Zammuto, Avi Buffalo, The Baseball Project's Scott McCaughey. The last few tunes were played by all of the members of Wilco, minus drummer Glenn Kotche.
Rain started falling during the last hour of Tweedy's performance, but that didn't keep fans from dancing and clapping along.
MoCA Executive Director Joe Thompson was in attendance during Tweedy's "Plus One" set, so check back later tonight for a full transcript of iBerkshires.com's interview with Thompson. He said that more than 5,000 fans attended Saturday's festivities, while more than 3,000 came back Sunday.
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Light Attraction for Wilco Fans & Residents
Main Street looked like a small-town version of the City of Lights on Saturday night as the downtown did its best to attract at least the fringe of the 5,000 or so expected at the Solid Sound Festival at MoCA. (What's Solid Sound? It's right here.)
Some 1,000 feet of twinkle lights criss-crossed over the sidewalk on the sunny side of the street, augmented by theater lights shining on two of the city's more elegant structures, the Dowlin Block and the Hoosac Bank Building. Matthew Adelson, lighting designer at both the Mahaiwe and the Williams College '62 Center, set up the display.
The evening, much like the Wilco-curated festival, was a laidback affair, although there was brisk business at many of the local eateries and steady draw into the galleries, if not much art being purchased.
The theater lights were a nice touch.
"We smoked! This morning we had a line at the door ... This was just amazing," Mark Petrino, owner of Petrino's Cafe, told us in the wee hours of Sunday morning after a marathon day. The cafe started with a waiting line for breakfast; it was ending past 1 a.m., with a dozen or so patrons chilling to the sounds of 8 Foot River, a Great Barrington band.
There was music up and down Main Street and on Eagle. The night was mild, the sidewalks busy but not packed, and people clustered around the street musicians, sat on the new benches or strolled into open galleries. Not everyone stayed open to the advertised 2 a.m., but most kept their doors open to at least midnight.
Keith Bona, owner of Creations and a city councilor, said it wasn't a record day, but a very good day. He didn't get the sales predicted by Jonathan Secor of MCLA Gallery 51, who'd bet him $20, but he must of been close. Neither would state the figure, but Secor said he'd considered spending $100 "to get his dignity and his $20 back."
We hear the galleries didn't sell much on Saturday, but didn't really expect to. Brian Handspicker at the Berkshire Arts Colony did note a significant increase in foot traffic into the gallery at 107 Main St. on both Friday and Saturday. When we wandered over about 9:30 on Saturday night, there were a half-dozen people in the gallery — all local. Handspicker said quite a few city residents had stopped by on Saturday evening, while out-of-towners had visited during the day.
This festival crowd was mostly middle-aged, and many brought their children along. Joe Thompson, MoCA's executive director, described them as "rock daddies," with a strong streak of social responsibility. "They don't like waste," he told us last week. "They don't like to see overflowing trash cans." That's why we think the Smart Car we saw with a New York plate on Main Street belonged to Wilco fan; we don't see too many of those models around here.
These fans are also pretty hungry, if Saturday was any indication.
Seriously Supreme Pizza salesmen
Over on Marshall Street, the guys of Guys and Dogs were crowded with customers. Jack's Hot Dog Stand at the other end of Main Street was open to midnight and reportedly packed most of the night; another street vendor on the other side of Marshall had a waiting line, too. We also heard The Hub, which closed by 11, did a boffo 400 covers on Saturday. Supreme Pizza was covering both ends of the street, with a pair of fast-talking salesmen reinforced with Red Bull wheeling and dealing on single slices near the old Moulton's General Store.
Supreme's general manager Spencer Leonard said the proof was in the piled and empty pizza boxes behind their table. "We couldn't keep up with them," he said.
Vinnie Melito and David Lewis of Guys and Dogs, said they'd spoken to people from as far away as California and the feedback had been positive about the city and the Berkshires. "One guy said 'this place is jewel,'" said Lewis.
It wasn't just the out-of-towners impressed on Saturday. We met a young resident named Paul Oparowski who was chatting up pretty much anyone to find out where they were from and what they thought. "Everyone's been so friendly," he said, adding he hoped more events like this would continue. "It was awesome."
Our reporter Patrick on the job at MoCA
For all the focus on Solid Sound, the real drivers of the early evening were people from right here. They were on the street and in the shops and resaturants. "It proved we could do it ourselves," said Secor.
We know lots of other places were open — Christo's, Village, Red Sauce and the Richmond Grille among them — but didn't make it that far. There was a farmers' market on Eagle Street in the morning we missed because we were busy chasing some great deals at the townwide tag sale in Adams. If any readers have info on how other venues did, tell us about them.
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